Jul   2012



The Olympics, The Decathlon, and Bruce Jenner


Tags: olympic athletes, Ashton Eaton, track and field, conditioning, decathlete, Olympics, US trials, Bruce Jenner, decathlon

Senior Assistant Editor, Scholarship Manager, Wintergreen Orchard House

If you’re a track and field enthusiast and a closeted Keeping Up with the Kardashians fan, this week’s blog is for you.

With the London Olympics just a few weeks away and the U.S. decathlon team recently being announced, I thought it would be a great time to pay a little homage to this lesser-known sport and to a reality television star who was once deemed the “World’s Greatest Athlete.”

What is the decathlon?

The decathlon is a sport that is exceptionally grueling. To be a decathlete, you have to be in superior condition, both mentally and physically, for the following 10 track & field events over the course of two days:

  • 100-meter run
  • Long jump
  • Shot put
  • High jump
  • 400-meter run
  • 110-meter hurdles
  • Discus throw
  • Pole vault
  • Javelin throw
  • 1,500-meter run

Decathletes are scored “according to time or distance, not placement” on a set number scale for each event. The 10 scores are added together for an overall score, which determines the winner of the decathlon. The gold medal winner is then given the well-deserved (unofficial) distinction of being called the “World's Greatest Athlete.”

Bruce Jenner

We all know Bruce Jenner as the submissive, boring husband to Kris Jenner and stepfather to the famous Kardashian girls. What most of the younger generations don’t know—something they have barely touched upon in the television show—is that Bruce is an incredibly important figure in both sports and Olympic history. He is easily the most talented member of his family and no one seems to pay much attention to his accomplishments and abilities as an athlete.

In the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Canada, Bruce Jenner won the gold medal, setting a world record of 8,634 points in the decathlon.

Jenner’s dedication to the sport was undeniable, working out eight to nine hours every day and even keeping a track hurdle in his home so he could work on techniques in his free time. Even further, he sought out the world’s greatest athletes in each individual decathlon sport to practice with. From learning from the best, he would be the best—and he was.

I found this great video of an interview with Jenner about the Olympics and his decathlon win back in '76. Not only will you get to see pictures of Bruce back in the day (pre-plastic surgery, I might add), but get a greater insight on the athletic side of him we don't get to see anymore.

The future of the decathlon

Recently, the U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials were held in Eugene, Oregon, and just like Bruce Jenner, 24-year-old Ashton Eaton is making a name for himself as a decathlete.

After his scores were tallied, Eaton recorded 9,039 points, a world record. It goes to show how far athletes have come since Jenner's days—405 points higher than his 1976 Olympics gold medal score.

There is no doubt that Eaton will be closely watched as the Olympic decathlon begins in a few weeks, and hopefully he'll bring another gold medal back to the United States.

Becoming a decathlete

First and foremost, you really need to have a love for track & field. CollegeXpress has fantastic lists of schools that have strength in track & field at all division and conference levels. Do your research, contact coaches, and put your feelers out there for the best program that will get you where you need to go.

Ashton Eaton graduated from the University of Oregon in 2010, broke records while he was there, and then rigorously trained for two years, which brought him to his most current—and incredible—U.S. Trials win.

After you graduate from school, there is no doubt that somewhere in your four years at school, you will have met some incredible people associated with the decathlon. Use the contacts you met to find the perfect coach that will bring you to the next level, which will hopefully lead you to representing the United States at future Olympic games.